What Are the Copyright Laws for Images?

By Holly Cameron

Digital cameras and social networking sites have led to an increase in the volume of images across the media. Anyone who uploads images to a website, or who downloads or copies images created by others, should be aware of the importance of copyright. Copyright laws protect the creators of original works from unauthorized reproduction or copying and penalize those who fail to respect others’ copyrights. Chapter 17 of the United States Code contains the Copyright Act and the relevant laws.

Ownership of an Image

According to Section 102 of the Copyright Act, copyright protection exists in original works, including pictorial, graphic and sculptural works. The creator of an image, therefore, owns the copyright for that image. The copyright owner has an exclusive right to sell, copy, distribute or reproduce that image; anyone else who does so without his permission is in breach of copyright laws. Remember that just because an image has been uploaded to the Internet, does not mean it is necessarily free to use. The photographer has copyright protection as soon as he captures the image in a tangible form, and he does not need to register the image or attach a copyright symbol to enforce his rights.

Licensing

The owner of the copyright for an image may license its use, for example, by allowing another person to insert the image in a publication or post it on the Internet. The owner may restrict the license to a single use or may allow unlimited use, depending on the terms of the agreement. If you want to use an image that you find on the Internet, for example, on a blog or publication, you should check with the creator or owner whether you need to purchase a license.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now

Fair Use

Copyright law allows the use of certain images without a license if the use is deemed to be fair. Fair use includes educational purposes, news, criticism and comment. According to Section 110 of the Copyright Act, a teacher or lecturer at a non-profit-making educational establishment may copy and use images as part of a face-to-face teaching activity.

Length of Copyright

Images created after 1978 have copyright protection for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years. After that time, the images enter the public domain and anyone may copy or reproduce them without fear of breaching copyright laws.

Work for Hire

The creator of an image generally owns the copyright, except where he has created the image as part of his employment or as a commission. According to Section 201 of the Copyright Act, in these circumstances either the employer or the person who commissioned the image is the owner of the copyright unless otherwise stated in an agreement. In that case you would have to get permission from the actual copyright owner, and not the photographer, to use that photo.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Copyright & Fair Use Guidelines for School Projects
 

References

Related articles

Copyright Laws on Exercise Routines

Title 17 of the U.S. Code extends copyright protection to original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Exercise routines that fall within any of these categories may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright does not extend to ideas or concepts that have not been fixed in a tangible form. To benefit from copyright protection, the creator of an original routine must therefore either write it down or record it in a video or multimedia format.

Are Commercials Copyrighted?

With the free accessibility of information and creative content over the Internet, it can be hard to know what is legally available to take and enjoy for free. It can be confusing to realize that something that may be free and legal to enjoy in one context may not be in another context. Most people think of commercials as a free bit of advertising that they are subjected to when they watch television or listen to the radio. Just because a commercial is broadcast for free through certain media does not mean that it is legal for anybody to upload the commercial on YouTube or post it for download on a website. Commercials are copyrighted, and only authorized parties may broadcast, copy or distribute them.

Copyright Laws & Video Games

Video games form the heart of a vital economic industry that relies on the creativity of game designers and innovative companies to develop a consistently fresh supply of new games. Copyright law protects the economic value of video games by insuring that only the creator of the work has the right to duplicate, sell or make related merchandise from the game codes, images, dialogue and characters.

Related articles

Software Copyright Issues

A copyright protects an original work of authorship by giving the copyright holder a monopoly on the right to ...

Can I Record Someone Else's Song and Change the Words in Parody Law?

United States copyright law grants legal protection to various creative works, including songs or lyrics. Under The ...

Are Advertising Brochures Copyrighted?

Copyrights provide legal protection for people who create original works involving design and imagination, like ...

A List of Copyright Rules & Procedures

Copyrights protect original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. They prohibit anyone other than the author ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED